How to Reduce Heeling

We’re not perfect sailors, we just are sailors because we have a sailboat and we get out and go.  We don’t have any piece of paper or certificates that even tell us we can sail.  We just do, which means we sometimes do it imperfectly.  And it seems we certainly did on the way to Cuba, as we received many comments on our sail trim in response to “Heavy Heeling” video, which is great.  Most were very helpful, dead-on and worth sharing.  Particular thanks goes out to our good friends, Kevin, our broker with Edward Yacht Sales who helped us find our beloved Niagara (a match made in heaven!) and Brandon, our trusted yacht repairman with Perdido Sailor, Inc., who rightfully gave us some much-deserved ribbing after watching our last video and then some very helpful sail trim tips that I felt were definitely worthy of passing on to you all.  That way when YOU set sail on your own bada$$ voyage to Cuba or elsewhere, your sail trim will be primo!

While our sail trim in the last video wasn’t terrible (as the sails were balanced enough for auto to hold and the boat was performing very well), there is always for improvement.  Here’s what we could have done better:

1.  Flattened the Headsail


Brandon was quick to point this out.  “You have got to flatten the sail in head winds,” he said.  “The flatter the sail, the less you will heel.”  And, I’ll be the first to admit this is a little hard to do (just for me personally) because you have to really crank on the winch, until your genny sheet is as stiff as a guitar string.  The lines on the winch will scream and yelp, and you’ll think something is probably about to break, but you’ve got to make yourself do it to truly get the best sail shape.  It also helps to turn up into the wind for a short time to let some wind out of the sail while you crank her in.

2.  Moved the Genny Car Back


This definitely would have helped us pull the headsail taut and get a much flatter shape.  This also would have helped us point upwind better, too.

3. Furled the Genny More


We have a 135 genoa, so she is pretty big and comes back (when fully out) almost to the dodger, which means, we’ve got a lot of furling to do when we really want to reef her in.


We had about three wraps on the forestay during the “heavy heeling” footage from our last video, with the genny out to a point about a foot or two aft of the mast.  It probably would have served us better that first rough night and morning to have reefed her just forward of the mast (probably two or three more wraps) the evening before at sunset.  We did that later, toward the end of day two of our voyage and it was more comfortable.

4. Run Our Reefing Line on the Clew of the Main Down to the Boom


Kevin pointed this out to us and it was a definite “Aha!” moment.  If you recall, Phillip and I had dropped the main when we were preparing for this voyage to have our local sailmaker, Hunter Riddle with Schurr Sails, put a third reef in our main.  I showed footage of us in our “Heavy Weather Planning” video re-running our reefing lines when we put the main back on, and it turns out Phillip and I had done it wrong.


When Phillip and I did it, we ran the reef lines for Reef 1 and Reef 2 of our main at the clew from the end of the boom straight to the respective Reef points in the sail and secured it with a bowline, not recalling exactly how they had been run before.


As Kevin pointed out, we should have taken each reef line, gone through the grommet for the reef point and then run it down to the boom and secured it with a bowline to the boom.


That would have enabled us, when pulling our Reef 2 at the clew line in the cockpit to pull the sail both aft and down at the same time, instead of just aft.  Thanks Kevin.  We will be re-running those before we go offshore next time.  That will also alleviate the need for the additional strap that we affixed from the clew to the boom during our voyage to Cuba.

5. Pulled the Reef Down to the Boom 


“All that baggage is extra windage,” Brandon said.  And he was right.  Setting the reef in our main, because it is set with two separate reefing lines, one at the tack and one at the clew, does not always result in a perfect result.  Sometimes the tack point is lower than the clew, or vice versa, and the reef looks a little crooked.  Here, we had them level, just not down flush with the boom.  We should have continued to pull both points down until the foot of the reefed sail was sitting on the boom.  (And if you want to get real crazy you can flake and secure down the rest of the sail and lash it to the boom, if you have multiple reefing grommets in your main to really secure the sail down and prevent windage from baggage, or so goes the adage ; ).

6. Moved our Jerry Cans Aft


This one is not really a sail trim tip, but it will affect how your boat rides in the water so it is relevant.  All that effort we went to in our “Provisions and Preparations” video to move as much weight aft as we could to enable our boat to ride better in heavy seas, and then we tied two five-gallon jerry cans of fuel right at the bow.  Brandon thought this was really funny.  Our best answer?  To keep the walkway on the deck clear when we had to go to the bow to handle the sails, which I guess is a plausible answer, but probably not the best one.  It’s not very common that you have to go up to the foredeck to mess with the sails or even if it is, it’s not too much more trouble to step over some jerry cans while you’re already bobbing and bouncing and tethering in.  We should have moved them back further.  Although they definitely would have gotten in the way of this awesome photo.  I mean, if you’re going to head to the bow in some rough seas, you better be sure to get the money shot!


Hope you all have found some of these lessons helpful.  Phillip and I are both learning as we go and we definitely find a new or better way to do something each time we take our boat offshore.  We also definitely make plenty of mistakes and always try to share them.  Wait until you see our next video.  Can anyone tell me why it might not be a good idea to pour some of your jerry can fuel into the tank on starboard in seas like this?

Anyone?  Anyone?

29 thoughts on “How to Reduce Heeling

  • WoW, I just learned a lot and I agree the jerry cans would have ruined that great $$ shot. I really enjoy getting your emails. Keep up the great times and stay safe.

    • No thank YOU Jim. Writing and telling us means a good deal. We’ll keep the articles and videos coming (just because you said you enjoy them so much! ; ) Thanks again.

  • Annie: Full marks for this entry. Yes, when I watched the video I had the same thoughts and wondered about writing to you, deciding not to. I think it is great your followers are attentive and I promise to not leave out an idea or two as I have them.

    A question is about your main boom sheeting. If you have a traveler, move it as far to leeward as possible. Your two-block system allows an equivalent solution by easing the windward sheet completely. We are very attentive to traveler position on Averisera to both increase speed and reduce heeling.

    Keep sailing and keep video/writing. Your winter sailing is making me smile as we get through winter on Cape Cod. Averisera’s mast is down and we are tucking into a few projects we can do with mittens on our hands!

    • Thank you Norman. We are definitely committed to sharing our experience (which often includes our mistakes). Kevin and Brandon are exceptional sailors and we are always grateful for their advice. Now you can be too! We do not have a traveler on our main; we have two sheets that pull to starboard and to port so that is not an issue for us. But, I’m so glad you enjoyed the article Norman. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  • Annie, not sure if you’ve already read the books by Steve and Linda Dashew (designers/sailors of Deerfoot, Sundeer, Beowulf, and the FPB series), amongst other things their coverage of heavy weather and storm sailing and prep work is fantastic. They’ve recently very generously made PDF versions of the 4x books (Mariners Weather Handbook, Surviving the Storm, Practical Seamanship, and the Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia) available for free download at

    Well worth your time reading and absorbing …

    Stay safe!

  • Annie, not sure if you’ve already read the books by Steve and Linda Dashew (designers/sailors of Deerfoot, Sundeer, Beowulf, and the FPB series), amongst other things their coverage of heavy weather and storm sailing and prep work is fantastic. They’ve recently very generously made PDF versions of the 4x books (Mariners Weather Handbook, Surviving the Storm, Practical Seamanship, and the Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia) available for free download at

    Well worth your time reading and absorbing …

    Stay safe!

    • Ahhhh … thank you. I’ll be honest I SHOULD know these two more but I had not heard much about them until last year when my very good friend Pam Wall started working for Skip (Steve) helping him order parts and supplies for his impressive motor yachts. She says he is an absolute genius and that she almost feels nervous trying to keep up with him. Can you imagine? THE Pam Wall nervous about her own boating knowledge? That told me Skip really knows his stuff, but I did not know he had written books so I will definitely check these out. Thanks, as always, for the shared intel.

  • Answer? Water in the fuel tank!
    Also, check that your fuel vent is not located such that seawater washes back into the vent, finding its way into the tank. On Averisera, I can fill the tank from below which has some utility in wet weather. Assume a low tank volume! Norm

    • Ahhh … that’s a nice feature. Thanks Norm. You’re absolutely right. Wait till you see us do it – ha! We need to keep voyaging so we learn more!

      • I have to reroute my fuel tank vent this winter as I plan for some ocean sailing next season. I don’t have the room for a bigger fuel/water separator/filter with a glass bowl. Since I can’t see into my separator, I am always wondering about water intrusion. So far so good. Anyway, looking forward to more stories from your trip. Norm

  • Hey Annie!

    This was a GREAT post! This is the way we all learn, and I learned a thing or two as well! Another thing that will help the Shape of the main is a Boom Vang. Don’t know if you have one, but if you do you can use it to pull the boom downward to help flatten the main sail. If you don’t have one, consider installing one. they are really easy to install and can make sailing in strong weather much easier!

    Keep up the GREAT work!

    • Thank you John. I definitely felt this info was worth sharing. I thought about just adding it as a comment to the YouTube video but thought it might get buried and wanted everyone to benefit. We DO have a boom vang but rarely use it. Great idea. I’m not sure if Phillip did that on our way to Cuba (probably) but we’ll make a note to do it in the future. Good advice, thank you! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Thank you Annie!! Love following you guys and your adventures and have been learning lots from your experiences! We are headed south from Ontario in August for the winter and all these tidbits will help us as we get to Big Water!! 😃⛵

    • Thank you Peter! So good to hear from you (we love when followers write) and so excited you’ll be making your way down south soon to warmer waters! I’ll bet it’s chilly up in Ontario right now! Glad to have you following along. Thanks for the kind words. We’ll keep the goods coming. We’ve got plenty of lessons to share!

  • Ya know what Annie, Yup you could have done things better and you will next time. I remember my first sail on my first sailboat, A Hobie Cat 16. Never sailed before, read everything I could get my hands on about sailing and that boat in particular. When I hit the water in early April I was ready and I knew it all. After all I had read it right. Wrong!! There is nothing like doing it to let you know how much you don’t know. Went out there on the water, got away from the launch dock just fine. Off we went. first tack… into irons, easy to do on that boat. back and forth we scrambled across the tramp every time the wind would come onto either tack and back into irons again. finally figured out how to back wind the jib. Off we went in a rush. Port hull cleared the water and before you could say No we were on our side sitting on the high hull. And into the frigid water we did go to right the boat.
    Point is there is nothing like doing to teach you what really works and humiliation to bring you back. I learned real fast and boy could I make that little Hobie fly after that and doing more.
    You crossed and Ocean, you have sailed your wonderful boat many times but on that passage you were new and learning. And learn you did. I saw what you did wrong in that video but I wanted to just encourage and thank you. You did it and you shared it. Good job. And now you are enjoying the adventure. Good going.
    Fair winds and smooth seas, you will never be done learning
    S.V. Isla Azul

    • Thanks for this Rick. I had a guy write on the YouTube channel today, he once knew a sailor who had many sailing certificates, but he was terrible on a boat. There’s nothing like actually getting out there to truly teach you. Glad you’re enjoying the journey.

  • Hey Annie,
    Nice info to share. But I have something to say. Yup you could have done it better when you were out there and the wind came up. And next time you will. There is nothing like experience to teach you what works and what does not. You have sailed your wonderful boat a lot, you have crossed an ocean, you have sailed on other peoples boats. And you are getting a lot of good pointers here. But all of that just does not click until you are out there and it is you making the decisions. Now you are the one in command of you own boat and that is different. This was Your first real offshore sail. And a lot was going on. You two had to make decisions about what to do and you discussed it. So you were asking the right questions. Yup the boat was out of trim and over powered and you knew it. The boat was telling you so. She will always tell you what to do, you just have to listen. All the reading in the world will not make up for doing it. That is the best teacher in the world. That is when you take all that information and start putting it to use. A little at a time it all starts to click and you will do the right thing when you have to and not even ask if this is what to do. You two will act as one and just do it. You learn from your mistakes and next time you will know, that didn’t work so don’t do it again. A boat is dynamic always changing always telling. She is strong (as you found out) and she will take care of you.(And she did) She will teach you and you will learn. And your confidence grows in yourself and the little ship that is carrying you with her. It is a wonderful thing and you will have lots of memories from it.
    You did it. You made it to Cuba! Viva La Cuba! That is Huge!
    Now sail that boat far and wide, listen and learn. Make mistakes and learn more. You have a good resource here with a lot of other people watching and telling you what to do. But You are the Captain of your own ship and you must make the final decision for the situation you are in, and you will. Right or wrong it was your decision and you move on and grow. That is the wonder of sailing. It is always different. Life at its best.
    Again, Thank you so much for sharing and putting yourself out there for all of us to see. Right or wrong it is a joy to watch.
    S.V. Isla Azul

    • Wow, Rick. Eloquent as always. I love seeing your comments. I’m with you. Our boat was an absolute thoroughbred, thundering across the Gulf. She impressed the snot out of me (yes, snot!) and I was so proud to be riding her across the Gulf Stream to a foreign shore. She wasn’t timid at all. She galloped and trotted around for a bit in the winner’s circle with a ring of flowers around her neck. Love our girl. She’s going to sail far and wide! Thanks again for following and leaving such kind words. Means a lot to us.

  • Hi there!
    I have watched, not all, but several of your videos. I think they are great! As Rick points out above, it’s a learning process. When I took my coastal master the teacher said he had one student that had taken every certificate possible…but he was terrible in a boat. You, on the opposite, haven’t taken every certificate possible (you don’t have to, it doesn’t matter) but you are spending time where it matters, out on the water that is. And by that sharing and learning. Sure, the reef line caught my eye, but so what? You made it to Cuba without disaster. Well done!
    There will always be people telling you what to do, right or wrong, when you post on the net. Take it for what it is, friendly advice (most of the time) and keep the videos coming 🙂

    Keep up the good work, mates!
    Håkan from Sweden

    • Thanks Hakan. So true. It was a little shocking to me at first when I first started publishing videos on YouTube the things people would seemingly “shout” at you, but I’m used to it now. You’re always going to get commentary. Now, I take the good, ignore the bad and share when we learn some valuable lessons, which we do every time we get offshore. Appreciate you following and leaving a comment here. Thanks! Love your line about certificates don’t make good sailors. Sailing does ; )

  • I just found your channel/blog yesterday. Nice job on everything. What’s really good is that, unlike many sailors who have an ego to uphold, you admit the weaknesses that most of us have. You ask for and get advice and then help others to learn from your experience and mistakes. Good job!

    • Wow, thank you Ron for such a nice note. I actually prefer to share our mishaps and lessons learned more than anything else because that’s what it’s all about. If you’re not out there screwing up on occasion, you’re not really doing it right (in our humble opinion). I’m so glad you’re enjoying the content. Means a lot to us! Thank you.

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